If there's one thing that "Dean Of The Washington Press Corps" David Broder is consistently riven with despair over, it's Congress' inability to manufacture his favorite product,
cogent public policy delicious bipartisanship-sauce, which, when muddled with simple syrup and mint leaves, produces the intoxicating elixir that sustains Beltway Insiders.
The good news is that he seems to be growing less and less oblivious to the fact that the lion's share of the blame for our recent legislative gridlock is attributable to the GOP. The bad news is that he's pinned his hopes for change on the man who's least likely to deliver: Senator John McCain.
Broder hasn't given much thought to the lives of actual Americans for years, he just wants what he wants: a Xanaxed legislature that will get along, pass watered-down bills with giant vote margins, and an environment of comity that recalls those halcyon days where legislators of all stripes went for cocktails and rib-eyes with one another. This past year, for example, Broder desperately desired the formation of a Deficit Commission, as imagined by Senators Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.). Their idea was doomed to dismal failure, as it would have required three levels of supermajority approval -- in the Senate, the House, and a 14-out-of-18 majority on the commission itself -- to bring a plan to President Barack Obama's desk.
Of course, the Senate famously failed to create this commission -- by a 53-46 margin-- for the very specific reason that seven of its Republican cosponsors abandoned the effort. But Broder desperately needed to create a "pox on both parties" narrative, so he concocted some nonsense about how Democratic committee chairpersons were equally at fault, because they were too concerned with looking out "for their own prerogatives." The only problem was that ten of the sixteen Democratic committee chairs voted for the bill.
But recently, Broder has begun to wake up to the notion that the GOP held some radical views and were "freighted with emotional baggage." And today, he's gotten even more firm, saying: "One of the conspicuous failings in the past few years has been the absence of a second party making principled decisions on when to support and when to oppose the president." But the bad news is that he believes Senator McCain "has the best opportunity -- and the best credentials -- to restore this." But the John McCain he describes hasn't existed in years!
He has almost complete political freedom -- a constituency that plainly will not punish him for following his own conscience. There is enough mutual respect between him and the president that McCain's support will be welcomed by the White House and his opposition understood.
What? Yes, the good news is that obviously, McCain has retained the favor of Arizonans. But he didn't earn it by following his conscience. He got there by happily abandoning his political principles, as easily as one might toss a cat in a trash can. Last night, Stephen Colbert became only the 456,723rd political observer to nail McCain on this regard. No mean feat, by the way! We're actually running out of ways to joke about this:
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|John McCain's Victorious Defeat|
Broder, of course, isn't bothered by any of this:
I did not begrudge him the $20 million he spent to win Tuesday's primary, or whatever amount it was. Nor was I bothered by the doctrinal compromises the senator made to convince Arizona voters that he was, in fact, a conservative. McCain has always been a realist, doing what was necessary to survive a North Vietnamese prison camp or a tough political trap.
(You know, if there was one thing that John McCain's campaign against J.D. Hayworth really should not be compared to, it's being imprisoned and tortured in a Vietnamese POW camp.)
As for this idea that McCain and Obama share some sort of mutual respect, well, I'm sorry, but I think it's pretty clear that they have a healthy and celebrated disregard for one another, dating back to one of their first interactions.
Hardly less important is the role McCain can play within his own party. In Arizona, he successfully steered the GOP away from an experiment in extremism.
Huh? When did this happen, exactly? McCain embraced the extremism in Arizona, and rode it to victory this week alongside Arizona governor Jan Brewer. Did Broder miss this?
Of course, McCain's primary challenge is over. I suppose that having completely abandoned his principles to achieve that end, it would really be no strenuous exertion to retreat from his retreat. But what happens then? Broder believes that McCain has it within his ability to "exert the influence he commands, not just as a senior senator but as a man whom millions were prepared to support as chief executive in two campaigns." I think Broder is widely overblowing McCain's influence. When I think about the actual influence McCain wields over legislators these days, I can put Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman on a list and quite literally call it a day.
McCain can do what he likes, and I'd certainly appreciate the re-emergence of the John McCain of ancient yore, but realistically speaking, he finds himself caught between a Democratic caucus that doesn't much trust him anymore and his Republican colleagues, who will happily embrace McCain if he's doing things like supporting a change to the Fourteenth Amendment. By the way, remember how it was that issue that clued Broder in about how the GOP has radical views? Well, via TPM, here's McCain, making it pretty clear that he's not about to stand against those views in any way, shape, or form:
"We're talking about the stimulus right now," McCain said, before darting off to the elevators down the hall from the Senate studio, where he again declined to take a question. Reporters eventually caught up with McCain in the basement of the Capitol, where he was walking toward to the man-operated train connecting the Senate with the Russell office building.
TPMDC asked, "Do you support the Minority Leader's push for hearings into the repeal of birthright citizenship?"
"Sure, why not?" McCain said briefly.
"Do you support the idea itself?"
"I support the idea of having hearings," McCain said.
"Do you have a problem with the 14th amendment?" another reporter asked.
"You're changing the constitution of the United States," McCain said. "I support the concept of holding hearings."
"I support the concept of holding hearings," McCain repeated, turning to the rail car conductor.
"Let's go!" he snapped.
"I don't have anything to add to that."
Yeah, I don't have anything to add to this, either.